Tag Archives: Wes

On Babies and Bebop

This post commemorates a special event in my life: this morning, perhaps just as you’re navigating your way to Eleventh Stack for your daily dose, I will be joining my wife at an ultrasound to learn the sex of our first baby. Don’t worry, I’m not going to blather on about the joys of fatherhood and recommend baby care books. No, this post is actually about jazz drumming.

Though the baby is sort of included.

You see, I picture myself telling my grown up kid this story some years from now: “While your mother was busy gestating, I was doing what I could to help out, but was otherwise helpless with worry about your future. Like any other sensible father-to-be, I found an escape from the worry by teaching myself jazz drumming.”

Max Roach, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Max Roach, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“I played drums for years before, mostly John Bonham-inspired rock and assorted heavy metal, and I was a bit out of practice. But just a couple weeks before I learned you were going to be a boy/girl*, I heard your heartbeat and it sounded like a bass drum keeping a steady 140 beats per minute. For whatever reason, it made me think of great jazz drummers like Max Roach, Art Blakey and Roger Humphries, and inspired me to pick up my sticks and play something new. So, I borrowed a copy of John Riley’s The Art of Bop Drumming from the Carnegie Library Music Department (thanks, Tim) and started swinging.”

“It was akin to relearning how to ride a bicycle. But fortunately I stuck with it, and as you know my quintet has now sold enough records to pay for your Ivy League education.”

Ok, ok, fine, I’m daydreaming a bit. I’ll probably never be a world-renowned jazz drummer and sell lots of records.

But my kid will.


*Check back later to see which one I’ve crossed off.


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Mmm, Piiizzaaa…

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Apologies for the hunger this blog post is going to make you feel, but I must let it be known that today is National Deep Dish Pizza Day! The deep dish style of pizza was originally created in Chicago, which is why it is commonly referred to as Chicago-style pizza. Outside of big restaurant chains and grocery store freezers, this style of pizza is hard to find in Pittsburgh, and I personally know of only one independently run pizza joint that makes an authentic deep dish pie, Molly’s Pizza in Dormont. But fear not, you can always turn to library books to learn how to make your own at home:

Pizza: Grill It, Bake It, Love It! by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

The Everything Pizza Book: 300 Crowd-Pleasing Slices of Heaven by Belinda Hulin

Pizza: Easy Recipes for Great Homemade Pizzas, Focaccia, and Calzones by Charles and Michele Scicolone

Pizza: More than 60 Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pizza by Diane Morgan and Tony Gemignani

Or, turn to some librarian approved websites to find some more tasty information, such as:

A deep dish pizza recipe from The Accidental Hedonist

-An entire website devoted to Homemade Gourmet Pizza

Deep dish pizza recipes from Epicurious.com

-A deep dish skillet pizza recipe from Vegetarian Times

Are there other deep dish pizza recipes that you can recommend, or perhaps a favorite Pittsburgh pizzeria that I’ve neglected? 



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The Return of Black Holes, Beakers, and Books

This spring, CLP’s popular science book club Black Holes, Beakers, and Books returns with three book selections about nature and climate change. What’s most exciting about the upcoming meetings is that employees of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will be joining us with exhibit objects to supplement our first two discussions, and the author of our third book selection will be joining our discussion via telephone. Check out the selections and discussion dates below. Each meeting will be from 3:00 to 4:00pm in the Director’s Conference Room on the First Floor:

Sunday, March 21, 2010
Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet
by Mark Lynas
What will happen to the earth and human civilization if the planet warms by one-to-six degrees Celsius? Mark Lynas tries to answer this question by looking at warming data past and present, concluding that, depending on the level of warming, the consequences range from the loss of mountain glaciers and coral reefs to the total destruction of life on the planet. An employee of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will be joining us with objects from the Polar World exhibit to discuss the impact of climate change on arctic life!

Sunday, April 18, 2010
The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One
by Sylvia A. Earle
Described by some as “a Silent Spring for our era,” The World is Blue is Sylvia Earle’s depiction of Earth’s oceans in crisis, as overfishing, pollution, and climate change drive species into extinction and throw off the delicate balance of the entire planet’s ecosystem. An employee of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will be joining us with objects from the Whales/Tohora exhibit to supplement our discussion of Sylvia Earle’s book!

Sunday, May 16, 2010
Chasing Spring: An American Journey Through a Changing Season
by Bruce Stutz
Part science, part travelogue, Chasing Spring follows Bruce Stutz’s journey across America to “see spring in various phases.” What he discovers on his trip is both fascinating and disturbing: climate change is causing spring to arrive earlier, resulting in altered migration patterns for animals, glaciers that melt more quickly, and unbalanced relationships between plants and pollinators. Bruce Stutz will be joining our discuss via teleconference!

I hope to see you there!


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FREE Computer Training at Your Public Library

Nearly every day I come across a story in the news about lingering unemployment and the havoc it’s wreaking on our country. Across these stories there runs a theme: many of the newly unemployed lack computer skills, a major detriment to finding employment in an economy where industry is out and service work is in.

Fortunately, many public libraries, including this one, offer free computer training to anyone who wants it. At our PC Center, our friendly staff teach classes on everything from Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, to learning about email and navigating the World Wide Web. All you have to do is register and get yourself to the class!

Isn’t it odd that a free public service that provides help in the midst of one of our country’s greatest crises is still facing budget cuts? Don’t forget to spread the word to your local and state leaders that public libraries need their support!


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(Birth)Day of the Dead

From wikipedia.org

Today is the 70th birthday of Pittsburgh’s own “Grandfather of the Zombie,” George A. Romero

To say Romero’s work changed my life would not be an overstatement. As a kid growing up around Scranton, PA, I spent a lot of late Friday and Saturday nights watching horror movies. Two favorites that I watched again and again were Romero’s Night of the Living Deadthe movie that defined the modern zombie—and its incredible sequel, Dawn of the Dead. Little did that young, horror-crazed version of myself know that years later I would (fatefully?) move to Pittsburgh, where Night and Dawn were born, and where I still have nightmares (and daydreams) about zombies.

Shortly after my move a friend took me on my first tour of the Monroeville MallDawn’s arena of zombie mayhem—where I walked around with my mouth agape, finally seeing in person the locations of the film’s important scenes that I had watched so many times before on my television. More recently I was able to visit Night’s Evans City Cemetery, resulting in another jaw dropping experience as I approached the hilly cemetery entrance made famous in the film’s opening scene (shown around 1:24):

I eventually came to strongly appreciate the finale to Romero’s zombie trilogy, Day of the Dead. Though often forgotten in the shadows of Night and DawnDay is arguably the best looking film of the trilogy, and it’s a terrific final (and gory!) statement in the trilogy’s allegorical assessment of the human condition. (Out of respect for Romero’s birthday, I won’t talk about my feelings regarding the post-trilogy Dead films, Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead. Let’s just say that I hope his upcoming Survival of the Dead sees him return to form).

Yes, Romero has made more than zombie films. His filmography includes some of my favorite horror movies of all time, including his creepy Pittsburgh-filmed take on the modern vampire, Martin; his horror comic book inspired Creepshow, which was written by his pal, Stephen King, and had some scenes filmed right up the road at Romero’s alma materCarnegie Mellon University; and the Edgar Allan Poe-inspired Two Evil Eyes, which was co-directed with another horror master, Dario Argento. Yet, for better or worse, Romero will always be most memorable to me—and surely many others share this feeling—as the guy who started me down the road to zombie obsession.

Happy birthday, Master . . . I mean, George!


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Sick Day Reads

The cold and flu season is upon us, and unfortunately I’ve already been infected. I used a sick day on Monday to try to reduce the severity and longevity of a cold I acquired (I don’t think it worked), and doing so allowed me to catch up on some reading in between sleeping and eating soup. Here are a few of the things that I read in bed:

The House of Lost Souls by F. G. Cottam — F. G. Cottam’s debut horror novel is a recent addition to our horror collection. It’s the story of a man fatefully bound to the Fischer House, an old Victorian mansion haunted by a demon summoned by Aleister Crowley in the 1920s. I’ve been in the mood for reading horror books in the “hauntings” genre ever since I finished Caitlin Kiernan’s amazing The Red Tree, so this book really hit the spot. Excellent pacing, interesting historical references, and the feeling of H. P. Lovecraft meets The Exorcist made this book a winner for me.

Angel: After the Fall, Vol. 1 by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch — After my seven month stint of watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I jumped right into its spin-off television series, Angel. This graphic novel picks up where the television series ends and it doesn’t disappoint.

The Once and Future King by T. H. White — This one has been on my must-read fantasy backlist for some time now. My edition of T. H. White’s famous retelling of the legend of King Arthur includes a blurb on the back that describes it as “the fantasy masterpiece by which all others are judged.” Pardon my sacrilege, but so far I find the book a bit boring. While I can certainly see why others might find it great, so far it hasn’t gripped me like other fantasy books have; maybe it needs more blood and guts. Of course, I’ve only just begun to read it, so maybe it will improve.

Have any books sitting around waiting to be read on your inevitable sick day?



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A Year in Review

And what a year it has been!  While advocacy was a major theme for the Library this year (and that will continue in 2010!), we also managed to have a great big celebration of summer reading, open a new Allegheny branch, and spend more time in the news than ever before.

Of course, each member of the Eleventh Stack team has been sharing their thoughts, ideas and suggestions with you all year long. We thought we’d take this opportunity to bring you highlights from the Library trenches, where we’ve been discovering new books, DVDs, CDs, online resources, or simply learning something new each day.  Come join us anytime!

Kaarin:  Highlights for me this year were new “My Account” features, Reading History and Wish Lists.  I can now keep track of everything I’ve borrowed and everything I want to borrow without having to keep separate lists!  I was thrilled to discover new ways to find good books to read using librarything and goodreads.  And finally, I thoroughly enjoyed two novels I can recommend, The Shack, by William P. Young, and The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.

Leigh Anne:  Every December a book sneaks up on me, completely undermining my sedate recap of a literary year with its sheer brilliance.  This year’s book is The Hunger Games, which wraps pointed questions about social and political justice in the guise of a well-written dystopian fantasy novel.  The Hunger Games pits Katniss Everdeen against other teenagers from the various districts of Panem in a televised fight to the death that’s akin, plot-wise,  to both Battle Royale and the Stephen King novellas The Long Walk and The Running Man.  Get your hands on a copy, absorb the brilliance, and then get back in line, immediately for the sequel, Catching Fire.  I promise that, at the very least, you’ll have had some second thoughts about the excesses and inequities of American culture.

Other highlights of the year include a new countywide subscription to Mango Languages and Pittsburgh’s return to the ranks of America’s most literate cities.  The best thing that happens at the library all year, though, happens every day:  I get the privilege of helping you with your information needs, always learning something from you in the bargain.  It’s only going to get better and more interesting in 2010, dear readers, so fasten your seatbelts…

MA: The year for me has been exhilarating in the terms of literature.  I’ve stumbled across books that have, as Leigh Anne once said, presented me with book serendipity.  A few titles from the list:

Traveling with Pomegranates– a wonderful mother-daughter memoir detailing their growth and understanding with each other over a course of drastic change in both their lives. 

The Time Traveler’s Wife:  Niffenegger takes you through a world of almost science fiction proportions, but not overtly so.  The book encompasses the beauty and the despair that love brings to the lives of two people.  A true pleasure to read.

Bright Lights, Big Ass:  A hilarious memoir (one of the many!) by Jen Lancaster, ex sorority girl extraordinaire!  Written with a zest that not many authors can pull off, she takes you through her days so honestly that you can’t help but feel charmed by it. 

Wes: This year I was extremely pleased with the success of our newly created Black Holes, Beakers, and Books science book club. The book club had some great discussions about science, and a few of them were joined by the authors of the books we were reading, including Ann Gibbons, Lee Gutkind, and Marvin Minsky. Stay tuned for even more from Black Holes in 2010!

Lisa: 2009 can be easily summed up for me with this one book, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It’s been my go-to cooking guide, impressed many, and has greatly enhanced what’s for dinner!

Bonnie: My favorite reads of 2009:

American Nomads by Richard Grant: Grant is my favorite writer right now.  This gem recounts the history of nomadism in America—beginning with Indians, conquistadors, and then on to truck drivers, mountain men, hobos, cowboys  and bull-riders.  Grant is a nomad himself, and writes about the tension between the “sedentary” and people on the move—read this when you’re in the mood for an adventure.

First Blood by David Morrell: This was a big surprise—I had no idea Rambo was based on a book—and I was totally blown away by it.  Literally!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: This teen novel helped to alleviate my blood thirst caused by reading First Blood.  It’s chock-full full of edge-of-your seat, heart-pounding gloriousness.  If you read it, you will want to give me five dollars for suggesting it.  But I will turn it down.

Wishing you the best in 2010.


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